In my search to learn more about African Peanut Soup, I found a whole lot about the history of the peanut and a bit about food bloggers perpetuating the idea that there is only one variety of peanut soup popular in the whole of Africa. With 54 countries and more than 3,000 ethnic groups, speaking more than 2,100 different languages, how could there be only one peanut soup recipe? I would expect flavors, spices, and ingredients to vary greatly from region to region.

Having visited only one African country in my travels, I am not connoisseur of African cuisine. Though Ghana does have a groundnut soup, it differs significantly from the recipe below. Ultimately, I decided in favor of straight up “Peanut Soup” for the title.

peanut soup

My first encounter with African Peanut Soup was not in Africa, but in Bellingham, Washington, at the Colophon Café. This restaurant sits adjacent to Village Books (a beloved independent bookstore) where it has operated since 1985 serving house-made soups, salads, sandwiches, savory quiches, and more. Their African Peanut Soup is described on their menu as a mildly spicy, exotic blend of ground peanuts, ginger root, tomatoes, garlic, crushed red pepper, and turkey. You can find this recipe in The Colophon Cafe Best Recipes (2003). And let me tell you, it is delicious and a little on the spicy side.

When I found a vegetarian recipe for this community favorite, I was excited to give it a try, not because it was vegetarian, but because I’d always loved the Colophon’s version and, sadly, it was only while researching this recipe that I learned that the Colophon Cafe published their recipe! While my version has peanuts, tomatoes, and garlic, that’s where the similarities end. A quick internet search also shows a vast selection of variations, demonstrating that this soup can be easily tweaked to fit personal tastes. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Sauté the onion in coconut oil or add some coconut milk to add a bit of sweetness.
  • Add crushed red peppers or cayenne to increase the heat.
  • Include a squeeze of lime to add some zest.
  • Throw in a can of garbanzo beans or even some chicken thighs to up the protein.

Peanut Soup

Sweet potatoes and collard greens are simmered in this creamy peanut soup fragrant with ginger and warm spices. Serve over a heap of brown rice.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Soup
Servings 6 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 3/4 cup creamy, natural peanut butter
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp vegetable bullion
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (2-3)
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed, leaves sliced (can substitute kale)
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, rough chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup brown rice (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Heat neutral oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat and add the onion. Sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic, ginger, and spices and continue to cook for another minute, until fragrant.
  • Add bullion to hot water and stir to combine.
  • Add peanut butter, tomato paste, and broth. Whisk to combine and bring to a boil.
  • Add sweet potato and collard greens and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook, lightly bubbling, until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve on its own or ladle over a mound of brown rise. Garnish with peanuts and chopped cilantro.
Keyword collard greens, peanut, soup, sweet potato

Peanuts: A key ingredient in Peanut Soup

I did promise you some history on the peanut too. The peanut is thought to be a native South American legume. Fossil records show peanuts in Northern Peru around 8,500 years ago, possibly originating from the eastern side of the Andes Mountains. The crop made its way to Africa on trade ships and there is a whole book on this very topic: Slaves for Peanuts: A Story of Conquest, Liberation, and a Crop That Changed History by Jori Lewis. Peanuts are the 12th most valuable cash crop grown in the U.S., with a farm value of over $1 billion, according to The American Peanut Council.

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